Commission tables permit

Request to unload coal at Hayden Gulch facility put on hold

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The Routt County Planning Commission on Thursday tabled a special-use permit request from Peabody Energy to unload coal at its Hayden Gulch facility about two miles southeast of Hayden.

The commission, which toured the site earlier in the day, opted to wait for more input from agencies, including the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, before making a decision.

Peabody wants to unload coal delivered by rail from the Twentymile Coal Co. near Oak Creek at the facility, which last was used in 1995 to load coal onto trains.

The permit would allow Peabody to temporarily deliver coal to Xcel Energy's Hayden Power Station, which receives most of its coal from the nearby Seneca coal mine. Xcel is looking for a long-term delivery solution now that Peabody plans to close Seneca this year.

Trains would access Hayden Gulch from an existing spur off the Union Pacific mainline east of Hayden. The spur crosses U.S. 40 before heading south about 1.3 miles, where it crosses Routt County Road 37 just before the facility loop.

Coal would be loaded onto trucks, which will take the coal to Hayden Station on an existing hauling road.

Xcel officials plan to have a long-term delivery system in place in 2007. Peabody officials hope to have the Hayden Gulch facility operational in September.

"We want to do this quickly to ensure coal supply to the station," Peabody consultant John Weinman said.

Trains would arrive at Hayden Gulch once a day, five days a week. Trucks would haul coal six days a week at a minimum of 92 trips per day, Weinman said.

The facility and haul road involve land owned primarily by Peabody Energy, the state of Colorado and Public Service Co. of Colorado. The Hockett and Nereson families are among private landowners whose land will be affected by operations.

Ron Nereson said his family farm, about a half-mile from the terminal, experienced several adverse effects when Hayden Gulch was last in use.

"The coal dust melted snow and dried up our crops," said Nereson, adding that train noise was difficult to endure. "This special use does not belong here."

Weinman said Peabody plans to use various dust-control measures, including sprayers and bottom-dump cars. Peabody also is willing to upgrade railroad-warning signals at U.S. 40 and C.R. 37 and limit the number of rail cars so traffic on C.R. 37 isn't blocked while trains unload coal, he said.

A main concern of Routt County planning staff and the commission was whether the PUC or CDOT would request a rail overpass or separated-grade crossing at U.S. 40

Peabody officials said they may have to discuss other options for coal delivery if a separated crossing is required for the Hayden Gulch plan.

Supplemental coal supplies from the Twentymile Coal Mine currently are hauled to Hayden Station on C.R. 27.

The county has approved a permit for Xcel to haul more coal, provided the company improves the road. Xcel officials said last week they may apply for an amended permit allowing smaller trucks and less road improvements if the Hayden Gulch plan is denied.

The commission wanted more verification that the plan would be temporary. Staff planner Chad Phillips recommended that any approval occur with the condition that the facility only be used on an emergency basis once Xcel has long-term coal delivery in operation.

Planning Commissioner Gary Miller was among those concerned about the terminal's close proximity to Hayden.

"I want more information from the town of Hayden about the direction they prefer," he said.

Several Hayden officials who attended Thursday's Planning Commission meeting said they plan to submit a letter to Routt County regarding the proposal.

Several Planning Commission members said the proposal was appropriate because infrastructure already is in place. Their support, however, was contingent on mitigation measures, including landscape and noise barriers near The Haven Assisted Living Center, which was built on land Peabody donated near the spur.

"I think everything is in place for this," Bill Norris said.

The Planning Commission tabled Peabody's permit until Feb. 3, when more information from other agencies may be available.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com

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